‘Quiet’ shooting trial: Preliminary hearing sets stage for Alec Baldwin’s arrival in court

A New Mexico judge ruled Monday that actor Alec Baldwin ‘s role as co-producer is not relevant to the involuntary manslaughter trial following a fatal shooting on the set of the western film ‘Rust’.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ruled that no evidence about Baldwin’s supporting role in the film would be allowed in the trial, siding with the defense attorneys.

“I really have a hard time with the state’s position that they want to show that as a producer he didn’t follow the guidelines and that Mr. Baldwin as an actor did all these things wrong that led to the death of Ms. Hutchins because he as a producer allowed these things to happen,” Marlowe Sommer said. “I deny the evidence of his status as a producer.”

Special prosecutor Erlinda Johnson argued unsuccessfully that evidence should not be admitted that Baldwin’s “role as producer made him acutely aware of his responsibilities on set” for safety.

“It is to Mr. Baldwin’s knowledge that his conduct on set was negligent,” she said.

In the courtroom Monday, Baldwin sat between lead attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, flipping through papers briefly with a yellow notepad in front of him, wearing glasses and cropped hair.

The lawsuit begins on July 9 with the selection of the jury and is expected to last 10 days.

Last week, the judge cleared the way for key firearms experts to testify on behalf of the prosecution about Baldwin’s handling of the revolver and whether the weapon was functioning properly before the fatal shooting.

Prosecutors have argued that a state investigation into workplace safety, which found serious violations on set, was incomplete and unreliable and therefore should not be included in the trial.

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This aerial view shows the film set of “Rust,” at Bonanza Creek Ranch, Oct. 23, 2021, in Santa Fe, N.M. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Baldwin is charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, he could face up to 18 months in prison.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the gunsmith on set, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of camerawoman Halyna Hutchins and sentenced to 18 months in prison. She is appealing the conviction.

In October 2021, Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw maneuver with the revolver when the gun discharged, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty, claiming the gun accidentally discharged after he followed instructions to point it at him. Hutchins, who was behind the cameraBaldwin said that without knowing there was a live bullet in the gun, he pulled the hammer (not the trigger) and the gun went off.

Baldwin’s lawyers also want the trial to be free of any discussion of the death of actor Brandon Lee by a fatal shot to the abdomen during the filming of a scene from “The Crow” in 1993. In that case, there was an impromptu bullet accidentally left in gun from an earlier scene and hit Lee during the filming of a scene that required the use of blanks.

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In this image, taken from video released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, Alec Baldwin speaks with detectives after a deadly shooting on a movie set in Santa Fe, N.M. (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office via AP, file)

Prosecutors have agreed to withhold testimony about “The Crow” but also allege that Baldwin knew about the safety risks of guns, even when no live rounds were present. Lawyers for Baldwin argue that it was unthinkable that live rounds would have ended up on the set.

The prosecution wants to exclude a letter signed by crew members that disputes the characterization of the “Rust” set as chaotic or dangerous before the fatal shooting.

Prosecutors also want to exclude from the trial the findings of the safety investigation into the fatal shooting, which largely blames Assistant Chief Dave Halls. Halls has pleaded guilty to negligent use of a firearm and could be called to testify at Baldwin’s trial.

Rust Movie Productions paid a $100,000 fine to resolve violations of state security regulations that were characterized as “serious” but not intentional, under a 2023 plea agreement. Prosecutors say the investigation’s conclusions are easily contradicted by more reliable information.

Baldwin’s lawyers say the report cannot be excluded as evidence and that occupational safety official Lorenzo Montoya should be allowed to testify at trial.

Another pretrial motion could ease tensions between the prosecution and defense. The prosecution wants the judge to rule out allegations of “prosecution misconduct” and “personal attacks.”

Prosecutors also want the judge to exclude evidence and arguments that seek to generate sympathy for Baldwin, including evidence of remorse or the impact of the events on his family. They argue that such evidence is not relevant to determining guilt.

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